Which Movie Franchise Should Return? 'Back to the Future' Tops New Poll

More Americans (71 percent) say they’d be likely to watch another outing for Marty McFly and Doc Brown ahead of other major film series, a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds.
Universal Pictures/Photofest; Dreamworks/Photofest; Warner Bros./Photofest; 20th Century Fox/Photofest; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Photofest; Photofest
'Back to the Future'; 'Shrek'; 'The Matrix'; 'Avatar'; 'Die Hard'; 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

Great Scott! The one franchise audiences most want to see a new movie from is…Back to the Future, the Robert Zemeckis-directed trilogy that ended 29 years ago, according to a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll.

Of the 2,201 adults surveyed between Nov. 8 and 11, 71 percent said that they’d be likely to watch another outing for Marty McFly and Doc Brown ahead of other franchises like Pixar’s Toy Story (69 percent), Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones (68 percent) and Universal’s Jurassic Park (67 percent).

Back to the Future also polled well when it came to the question of which franchise has been most closely followed by the public. Fifty-four percent of those polled reported having watched the entirety of the series, compared with just 36 percent for the ever-growing Star Wars series. As with the earlier question, both Toy Story and Indiana Jones performed well, with 47 percent of those responding having followed each series faithfully.

Among dormant franchises (for now), 55 percent of respondents said they'd like to see another Hunger Games film, 54 percent said they'd be likely to go to another Matrix film and 53 percent said they'd be likely to watch another Avatar installment. Surprisingly, current box office juggernauts Star Wars and Marvel’s Avengers underperformed, coming in at 63 percent and 57 percent likely, respectively.

Overall, familiarity matters with movie franchises, with 71 percent of those polled saying they’d be more likely to watch a new installment in a series because they had liked earlier releases, and 63 percent saying that they’d be more likely to watch a new installment if it featured members of the original cast. In both cases, those results far outstripped negative responses, with only 3 percent reporting that they’d be less likely to watch a new release because of previous feelings about the franchise or its cast.

"There's a strong consumer demand for movie reboots and sequels, which spells good news for movie studios looking to capitalize on that nostalgic feeling," said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult's vice president. "Our polling finds half of Americans say they are much more likely to watch throwbacks and revivals."

Jill Pantozzi, deputy editor of genre culture blog io9, has a theory about what that might be. “There are so many media creations out there, and viewers feel more comfortable spending money on something they're already familiar with rather than something completely unknown to them,” she suggested. “Many of the reboots, remakes, and revivals don't seem to catch the magic of the original but can also have the effect of garnering a whole new audience who weren't fans of the original.”

In terms of what works in convincing an audience to watch a new installment in an existing series, the key appears to be word of mouth from friends and family; at 68 percent, it proved to be the main motivator in making those polled more likely to watch a movie, outside of their own happy memories of earlier installments.

Posting a strong showing in the favorability rankings was the James Bond franchise, with 74 percent favorability against just 12 percent unfavorable. (Toy Story was the runaway winner in this category, with 82 percent favorability against just 6 percent unfavorable.) But while audiences were largely in favor of the Bond series, they were far less united on the topic of who Bond should be going forward.

Fifty-two percent of those polled supported a black James Bond in future movies, while 29 percent opposed the move. (Curiously, 63 percent supported Idris Elba as a future Bond, raising questions about the 9 percent that were seemingly unaware that Elba isn’t white.) That idea nonetheless polled higher than a Hispanic Bond (39 percent) or Asian Bond (37 percent, tying with those in favor of a female Bond). Least popular of all, however, was the idea of a gay James Bond, which just 28 percent of respondents approved of.

Overall, 51 percent of people said Bond should never change, against just 34 percent who wanted to see a more diverse cast in future installments. Unsurprisingly in light of this, perhaps, Sean Connery — the original big screen Bond — proved to be the most popular Bond, with 82 percent of those asked having a favorable impression of him. Or maybe it’s a Celtic thing, as Pierce Brosnan ran a close second, with 82 percent approving of his performance. (Pity poor George Lazenby, with just 31 percent having favorable impressions of his brief turn as the British super spy.)

When it comes to franchises and movie series, then, the name of the game may be as simple as living up to the audience’s fond memories. Of course, there could be problems with that.

“I’m fairly surprised people want to see more Back to the Future, not the least of which is because director Robert Zemeckis basically said there'd be another film over his dead body,” said Pantozzi. “Nostalgia is a powerful thing.”

The Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll was conducted from Nov. 8-11 from a national sample of 2,201 adults with a margin of error of 2 percent.